Your 20 page document outlining in detail the research, findings and recommendations of your latest project. That’s easy to read, right? I mean you know the subject in detail. You’ve been working on it for months. It’s obvious… isn’t it?
To you, it may be. But what about your audience? Someone who picks it up and reads it for the first time? What does it tell them?
Do they pick it up with a groan, put off by the thought of reading pages and pages of tight-packed text with long sentences and paragraphs that go on, and on and on? Will they be baffled by jargon? Stumped by acronyms? Wonder why on earth this is relevant to them?
Is it well organised, structured in a logical way? Does it have a beginning, middle and end? Do your conclusions actually conclude anything?
These are all questions and problems that came up for discussion on a business writing course recently. And there’s lots you can do to make your documents easy to read, starting with thinking about your audience and writing for them, not yourself.
Here’s one little tip to help you review how easy your writing is to read.
When you spell check and review a Word document, (because you all do a spelling and grammar check before you send it out, right?) did you know you can also see how easy it is to read?
Word can show you readbility statistics. To turn this option on:
- Click the File tab, and then click Options.
- Click Proofing.
- Under When correcting spelling and grammar in Word, make sure the Check grammar with spelling check box is selected.
- Select Show readability statistics.
Next time you’ve finished checking the spelling and grammar of your document you’ll see information about its reading level.
Sadly, just having the statistics may not help you understand whether it’s easy to read or not. So for a quick guide to what the numbers actually mean and an online version of the scorecard, I like this readability checker from The Writer.